One of the most recognisable art moments in the 20th century, Surrealism sought to release the artists of perceptual limitations and explore ideas of the subconscious mind. Our range of surrealism prints will make for an interesting conversation starter! Emerging after World War 1 in Europe, surreal art or surrealism was at the forefront of an artistic revolution that incorporated the element of surprise, non sequitur and juxtapositions into an artistic expression that sought to unblur the lines between the real world and the dream world. The art form was designed to allow the subconscious to ‘take flight’ in such a way that its expression would be unhindered and, through the concept of ‘psychic automatism’ produce work that represented the ‘real functioning of thought’. This exploded into a cacophony of well-known and never before seen surreal artworks across Europe, most notably those of Salvador Dali, Andre Breton and Yvan Goll.
Surrealism was a twentieth-century movement that encompassed literature, art, and philosophy. The movement aims to liberate the mind from logic and open itself to artist expressions. It emerged in 1924, and many of its members had previously been associated with the Dadaism movement. To tap into the unconscious, there are some Surrealists who use automatic drawing or writing.
Surreal prints tend to defy logic and revolutionise the human experience. The characteristics of much of the surrealistic works tend to be dream-like scenes, unexpected juxtapositions. Ordinary objects are grouped in a strange way to evoke a meaning. There’s an emphasis or experimentation with automatism, which is an automatic way of writing and painting.
Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
The most famous of the group, Salvador Dali was a Spanish Surrealist artist. Although he is best known for his paintings, Dali was a skilled illustrator and dabbled in filmmaking, sculpture, and more. Like the other Surrealists, he was interested in exploring the subconscious mind, and used images and symbolism to effectively show this. This style of artmaking produced some of the most unique artworks ever seen before. Some of his most famous symbols and images are melting clocks, eggs, the use of ants to show anxiety and death, and floating animals with elongated legs. Even his wife Gala Dali has appeared numerously in his artworks, most famous of all in Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening (1944).
Rene Magritte (1898-1967)
Rene Magritte is Belgium’s most famous Surrealist painter. When he moved to Paris in September 1927, it was to be closer to the French Surrealist group, which included the likes of Andre Breton, its leader. Magritte intended to liberate the mind from rational thought via his artworks. His most famous artwork, The Treachery of Images (1928), deconstructs language by stating underneath a pipe, ‘This is not a pipe.’ His career began in Abstract art before he made a name for himself with his Surrealist imagery.
Andre Breton (1896-1966)
The leader of the Surrealist movement was Andre Brenton, an artist, writer, and filmmaker. In 1924, he wrote the first Surrealist Manifesto, as well as the books Nadja and L’Amour fou. In the Surrealist Manifesto, Breton best described Surrealism as “pure psychic automatism”. Breton is credited to have pioneer automatism, which is unrestrained and spontaneous writing, drawing, or painting.
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
Although Frida Kahlo is known for her exquisite, powerful self-portraits, she has painted many other subjects besides herself. In 1925, while recovering from a horrific bus accident, the Mexican artist began painting. She would continue to paint for the next thirty years. She was called a “natural surrealist” by Andre Breton, who came across her work while on a visit to Mexico. Although, Frida insisted she only ever painted her reality, never her dreams. Her notable works are Self-Portrait with Henry Ford Hospital (1932), Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940), Me and My Parrots (1941), which feature her beloved pets.
Joan Miro (1893-1983)
The Spanish painter Joan Miro really raised some eyebrows with his art. Miro was multi-talented, dabbling here and there in sculpture, ceramics, set design, and tapestry as well as painting. His arrival to Paris in the early 1920s was deemed an important stage of the Surrealism movement, according to the leader Andre Breton. Miro skillfully combined abstract art with the Surrealist ideals. His studio in the 1920a became a hub for the Surrealists to gather and experiment in. Miro’s work had a focus on form, line, and structure. Some of these examples are Spanish Dancer (1945), and Women and Bird in the Moonlight (1949).
There are a number of works that capture surrealism prints perfectly. The movement impacted artists all around the work and has resulted in several artists depicting their inner worlds in unique and remarkable ways. While there are countless sculptures, films, poetry, and novels that reflect the Surrealist ideas, here is a handful of paintings that capture it beautifully.
The Persistence of Memory (1931) by Salvador Dali
Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory is perhaps most famous for its melting clocks in a desert landscape. Dali uses symbolism to show the clocks losing power over the world around them as they melt away, effectively becoming defective. Sprawled across the ground is a peculiar face, Dali’s own, depicted in profile. Unsurprisingly, ants make another appearance in this artwork, symbolising decay. It’s interesting that these ants attack a gold watch. The golden palette is echoed in the distance of the artwork, where Dali depicts the golden cliffs of his home in Catalonia, Spain. The Persistence of Memory is famous thanks to its dream-like atmosphere and unusual subject matter.
Philosopher’s Lamp (1936) by Rene Magritte
One way to come face to face with your own vices is by depicting yourself attached to them in art. Rene Magritte did just this in Philosopher’s Lamp, a painting that shows a man’s nose extending surrealistically to fit into the tobacco part of the pipe. The man looks at the audience with an undeniable sadness in his eyes.
Harlequin’s Carnival (1924-25) by Joan Miro
Jan Miro was dramatically influenced by the Surrealists’ use of dreams and the subconscious as artistic material. The painting shows an indoor scene where there is some sort of carnival raging on. The atmosphere is lively and entrancing. There are many symbols in Harlequin’s Carnival: the ladder acts as a symbol of flight, evasion, and elevation.
The Wounded Deer (1946) by Frida Kahlo
The Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is best known for her stunning self-portraits, and the Wounded Deer is no exception. Kahlo paints her head on a body of a young deer who is shot several times by arrows and is bleeding. At the time of the painting, Kahlo’s health was declining. This is a result of a horrific accident she suffered at the age of eighteen, where she sustained injuries from a bus accident. It left long-term damage to her spine, pelvis, ribs, right leg, and abdomen. The Wounded Deer, along with the paintings Without Hope (1945) and Tree of Hope, Stand Fast (1946), reflect her deteriorating physical state after failing to support her spine following surgery in New York. The Wounded Deer also contains a combination of symbols used to express her various influences and beliefs, these being Buddhism, Christianity, and pre-Columbian. While the head was Frida’s head, the body of the deer belonged to her pet deer Granizo.